Monday, April 11, 2016

Humming along

On St. Patrick's Day morning I was biking in a residential area on my way to work as usual. On the wide 2 lane street in an area of fairly expensive homes something small & shiny sitting near the right edge of the street caught my eye. There weren't any other cars moving around in the immediate area, so I stopped and backtracked to investigate.


As I got closer I realized it was exactly what I thought it might have been... a tiny, perfect looking hummingbird. I dropped my bike on the side of the street and crouched down to investigate.

I've seen plenty of dead birds on the side of the street and I've even seen injured and once even a baby pigeon sitting on the sidewalk, but never an adult bird that otherwise seemed to appear ok. At this point I was on my stomach on the ground, looking at the bird closely, trying to see if it had any injures or appeared disheveled. Nope. Just a perfect looking hummingbird sleeping quietly on the pavement near the side of the road. I remembered seeing a video a while back of a hummingbird sleeping. It was at that time I learned that hummingbirds going into a super deep sleep/daily hibernation type state called a torpor. Because they have such a high metabolism, this sleep state allows them to get some sleep and slow down enough that they can survive the colder nights without having to constantly eat. It seemed reasonable that this is what was going on with this little guy.

(I shot shot this video partially to prove to myself that the bird was actually breathing!)

As I inspected the bird, a car came driving down the road on the opposite side and slowed down in front of me. "Are you ok?" the driver asked. A perfectly reasonable question, I told him I was looking at a hummingbird that I thought was sleeping. He told me it was dead, I told him I didn't think it was. So he told me to pick it up. I thanked him and he went on his way.

Although it seemed fine sleeping and not obviously hurt, I still didn't feel good about just leaving it in the street considering it was pretty oblivious to any danger in it's current state as I was able to get within inches of it without it reacting. It was a weird spot, just outside of someone's yard and in an area where there were no
sidewalks, but people did park on the street. In the last couple of weeks I've wondered if maybe there was a car parked or a trash can right next to the bird when it went to sleep & I just came across it after the car pulled away and before Mr. Hum woke up. Otherwise, it was a really confusing place for the bird considering there are so many homes with large yards, tons of trees and other bushes and plants nearby (although the house it was close to is undergoing some major construction recently, so I wonder if it's previous sleeping spots had been disturbed.) So I decided I needed to try to move it.

I grew up with a bird in the house so I'm not really afraid of them, but it's weird trying to deal with a completely wild animal that's so tiny and delicate and is equipped with a giant dagger on it's face. I gently tried to lift the bird up, but it was firmly grasping the ground. This also wasn't surprising as I've read that some bird feet have a default relaxed state of gripping onto things which helps them while sleeping. I kept gently pulling up and the little bird started squeaking and opening it's beak.

I let it be for a moment to see if it would wake up, but it was still mostly asleep. I tried again and was finally able to pick the bird up. It continued to make little squeaky sounds and stretching it's wings as I held it in my outstretched hand. It was so light it felt like I was holding nothing more than a cottonball, not an entire bird. I spotted a nearby bush with a semi-flat surface and gently placed the hummingbird down. It continued to squeak and stretch and wake up. I had to get to work and so I let it be and went on my way. Later on I went to check up on where I left it and I didn't find any feathers or the bird, so I hope it flew away.

Reading up on it, I feel like I maybe should have continued to let the bird sit in my hand until it fully warmed up and woke up and flew away. If it seemed to be having problems, I possibly even should have tried to offer it a flower immediately or maybe run to a coffee shop to mix up some sugar water for it. I suppose I will know better next time. I've learned so much just by going through this whole thing (including about the zunzuncitos in Cuba!) and really enjoyed the entire experience of seeing a bird like that up close as well as seeing another part of these little animals that I enjoy watching on a normal day. Now when I see hummingbirds in this area, I can't help but to wonder if one of them is this little guy. What a crazy and unique experience!

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